Wednesday, October 26, 2005

first week after

Then there's how we lived, all four of us loners who lived alone before this hurricane, on pads and cushions and a futon on the floor, and David's incredible generosity and kindness, and Orange in the cat carrier the first night and behind the washing machine for a week, and how worried I was because I didn't believe he was eating or drinking, and he'd panted, red-gummed tongue-curled panting, all the eight hours to Hammond, and I kept getting my fingers wet from the bottle of water and trying to get him to drink and he wouldn't. And then that magic day when I was in the bathroom with him, calling him, trying to coax him out, and he came on out, he just came on out.
LEJ awoke earliest every day and went out onto the porch with his little transistor radio, (because the electricity was out for four days), trying to get news, and then reporting the sketchy details of the worsening situation in New Orleans. On Tuesday, the day after the hurricane, we heard that the water was rising, but we didn't know where. They told us it would take a month to get electricity back in the city. We heard that one could not enter St. Tammany Parish. We heard that the CBD "blew up." We heard that the water would remain for three weeks in the city. And on Wednesday morning, we heard that Mayor Nagin said he woke up that morning saying he'd had a few hours sleep and was seeing more clearly and was ready to address the city. I wished I'd heard that address. I wished I were in the city. And I really believed I'd be back in a day or two.
By thursday the news was telling us that perhaps many thousands of people in new Orleans may be dead, that 80% of the city flooded. That there was lawlessness.
We could really only imagine.
I wrote in my journal that week:
I'm sitting on Dave's front porch. A guy just rode by for the second time on a bike with foil blue and red triangular flags on a mast behind his seat and a pile of Mardi Gras beads on his handlebars and baskets on the back full of found treasures. A New Orleans kind of nut. God, what happened to the homeless guy with the crazy eyes who sweeps our neighborhood? I saw him Sunday morning, walking down Marigny toward the river. And what has happened to my students? When will I see Valerie again, or Sharon or Rene or any of those friends at the Friendly? Maybe never. That's impossible. Usually it is me who decides what will be but this time what will be has been determined by a swirl of wind and rain as big as the Gulf of Mexico that has taken the something (I don't yet know what) out of New Orleans. I won't say the power is gone. I'll say it's this kind of thing that gives people power. And so we will rise. When? What will become of us? I can't know. I can't control it. It's way beyond anybody now. What will matter is that we exhibit what we're made of. It will require that we dig into ourselves and call upon the most real aspects of ourselves.
For now I'm not going after anything. I'm just going to try to live. That's been the hard thing, just living lately. This might be the biggest change in my life. I chose the others. I didn't choose this. This is the Universe wiping the slate clean and saying here you go Mel, here you go, what do you want and where do you want it? New Orleans and that life again? Hammond and this one? Lafayette? Paris? Mmmm, Paris. How could I make that work? Take a thousand dollars and go there. Apply for social security and unemployment and FEMA and take off until January when maybe school will start again and spend it writing in Paris? Four months. I could pay Tim's rent for him and stay there. Let the house go? Burn my bridges? Sell the piano and the cello, the furniture, stash the bikes somewhere, stash the writing and the pictures and my grandfather's letters somewhere, find something to do with the cats, and when I come back from Paris, if I come back, start over.
Saturday was the worry. Sunday morning was the decision. Sunday afternoon was the drive. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday was the juxtaposing of people and cats and a dog and neighbors and need for gas and who has money and going to the grocery, the line at Winn-Dixie, the air conditioning there, me, George, the tears, the stories, the revelations, the love, the mess, the news, the radio, Leonard and George, David, the sweetnesses, the conflicts, the personalities, the loners. Then George left yesterday and things changed. It got obvious and serious. It's not a party.


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